Second Temple period

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The Second Temple period in Jewish history lasted between 516 BCE and 70 CE,[1] while the Second Temple of Jerusalem existed. It ended with the First Jewish–Roman War of 66–73 CE and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE.

In 587/6 BCE, the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and the Judeans lost their independence, monarchy and holy city. Part of the Judean population was exiled to Babylon; it was eventually allowed to return following a proclamation by the Persian king Cyrus the Great that was issued after the fall of Babylon to the Achaemenid Empire.[2][3] Under Persian provincial governance (c. 539 – c. 332 BCE), the returned Jewish population in Judah was allowed to self-govern and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. In 332 BCE, Judea was conquered by Alexander the Great, and became part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom (c. 301-200 BCE) and the Seleucid Empire (c. 200–167 BCE).

The Maccabean revolt against Seleucid rule led to the establishment of an independent Hasmonean Kingdom (140–37 BCE), which later expanded over much of modern Israel and parts of Jordan and Lebanon.[4][5][6] In 63 BCE, the kingdom was conquered by the Roman Republic, and in 37 BCE, the Romans appointed Herod the Great as king of a vassal Judea. In 6 BCE, it was fully incorporated into the Roman Empire as the province of Judaea. Growing dissatisfaction with Roman rule eventually led to the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE), which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, bringing an end to the Second Temple period.

As Second Temple Judaism developed, multiple religious currents emerged and extensive cultural, religious, and political developments occurred. The development of the Hebrew Bible canon, the synagogue and Jewish eschatology can be traced back to the Second Temple period. According to Jewish tradition, the prophecy ceased during the early Second Temple period; this left the Jews without their version of divine guidance at a time when they felt most in need of support and direction.[7] Under Hellenistic rule, the growing influence of Hellenism in Judaism became a source of dissent for Jews who clung to their monotheistic faith; this was a major catalyst for the Maccabean revolt. A number of messianic ideas developed during the later Second Temple period. From c. 170 BCE to 30 CE, five successive generations of zugot ("pairs of") leaders headed the Jews' spiritual affairs. It was during this period that the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, and early Christianity were formed.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE is considered one of the most cataclysmic events in Jewish history.[8] The loss of mother-city and temple necessitated a reshaping of Jewish culture to ensure its survival. Judaism's Temple-based sects, including the priesthood and the Sadducees, diminished in importance.[9] Rabbinic Judaism developed out of the Pharisaic movement, and eventually became the mainstream form of Judaism.[10][11][12][13] During the same period, Christianity gradually separated from Judaism, becoming predominantly a Gentile religion.[14] A few decades later after the First Jewish-Roman War, the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE) erupted; it further dwindled the Jewish population in Judea and enhanced the role of Jewish diaspora, relocating the Jewish demographic center to Galilee and Babylon, with smaller communities across the Mediterranean.

Construction of the Second Temple[edit]

Construction of the Second Temple was completed under the leadership of the last three Jewish Prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, with Persian approval and financing.

The Trumpeting Place inscription, a stone (2.43×1 m) with Hebrew inscription "To the Trumpeting Place" excavated by Benjamin Mazar at the southern foot of the Temple Mount is believed to be a part of the Second Temple

Based on the biblical account, after the return from Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel, arrangements were almost immediately made to reorganize the desolated Yehud Province after the demise of the Kingdom of Judah seventy years earlier. The body of pilgrims, forming a band of 42,360,[15] having completed the long and dreary journey of some four months, from the banks of the Euphrates to Jerusalem, were animated in all their proceedings by a strong religious impulse, and therefore one of their first concerns was to restore their ancient house of worship by rebuilding their destroyed Temple and reinstituting the sacrificial rituals known as the korbanot.

On the invitation of Zerubbabel, the governor, who showed them a remarkable example of liberality by contributing personally 1,000 golden darics, besides other gifts, the people poured their gifts into the sacred treasury with great enthusiasm.[16] First they erected and dedicated the altar of God on the exact spot where it had formerly stood, and they then cleared away the charred heaps of debris which occupied the site of the old temple; and in the second month of the second year (535 BCE), amid great public excitement and rejoicing, the foundations of the Second Temple were laid. A wide interest was felt in this great movement, although it was regarded with mingled feelings by the spectators.[17][18]

The Samaritans, the inhabitants of what had been the northern Kingdom of Israel, made proposals for co-operation in the work. Zerubbabel and the elders, however, declined all such cooperation, feeling that the Jews must build the Temple without help. Immediately evil reports were spread regarding the Jews. According to Ezra 4:5, the Samaritans sought to "frustrate their purpose" and sent messengers to Ecbatana and Susa, with the result that the work was suspended.

Yehud coins: coins minted in the province of Judea during the Persian period.

Seven years later, Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple, died,[19] and was succeeded by his son Cambyses. On his death, the "false Smerdis", an imposter, occupied the throne for some seven or eight months, and then Darius I of Persia became king (522 BCE). In the second year of this monarch the work of rebuilding the temple was resumed and carried forward to its completion,[20] under the stimulus of the earnest counsels and admonitions of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It was ready for consecration in the spring of 516 BCE, more than twenty years after the return from captivity. The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius, amid great rejoicings on the part of all the people[21] although it was evident that the Jews were no longer an independent people, but were subject to a foreign power. The Book of Haggai includes a prediction[22] that the glory of the last temple would be greater than that of the first.

Hellenistic period[edit]

In 332 BCE the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great. After his demise, and the division of Alexander's empire among his generals, the Seleucid Kingdom was formed.

During this time currents of Judaism were influenced by Hellenistic philosophy developed from the 3rd century BCE, notably the Jewish diaspora in Alexandria, culminating in the compilation of the Septuagint. An important advocate of the symbiosis of Jewish theology and Hellenistic thought is Philo.

A deterioration of relations between hellenized Jews and religious Jews led the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes to impose decrees banning certain Jewish religious rites and traditions. Consequently, the orthodox Jews revolted under the leadership of the Hasmonean family, (also known as the Maccabees). This revolt eventually led to the formation of an independent Judean kingdom, under the Hasmonaean Dynasty, which lasted from 165 to 37 BCE. The Hasmonean Dynasty eventually disintegrated as a result of civil war between the sons of Salome AlexandraHyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. The people, who did not want to be governed by a king but by theocratic clergy, made appeals in this spirit to the Roman authorities. A Roman intervention in the civil war in Judea was then made, following Syrian campaign of conquest and annexation, led by Pompey. The pro-Parthian Hasmonean rival brother however soon brought Parthian support and the throne changed until Herod the Great established himself as a new pro-Roman king of Judea.

Roman period[edit]

Herod the Great was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. As a close and loyal ally to the Romans, Herod extended his rule as far as Arabia, created ambitious projects of construction across Judea, including the expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Herodian kingdom under Herod experienced a period of growth and expansion. Many of the most popular tourist destinations in Israel today, including the Western Wall and Tower of David, were built by Herod.[23]

After Herod's death in 4 BCE, the kingdom was partitioned to several parts to each of his three sons (initially four parts), forming the Tetrarchy. The central part of the Tetrarchy was given to Herod Archelaus, including Judea proper, Idumea and Samaria. Herod's death in 4 BCE caused the release of built up frustrations of the people who were suppressed by his brutality. Many people were impoverished because of Herod's high taxes and spending. When he died, his building projects that once allowed for job opportunities were stopped, and many people lost their jobs. This built up frustrations that ultimately contributed to the causes of the First Jewish–Roman War.[24]

In 6 CE, the country fell into unrest, and the Herodian ruler of Judea was deposed in favor of forming a new Roman province, Roman Judea. The Roman province of Judaea extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms. It was created in 6 CE with the Census of Quirinius and merged into Syria Palaestina after 135 CE.

Herod II ruled Ituraea and Trachonitis until his death in 34 CE when he was succeeded as tetrarch by Herod Agrippa I, who had previously been ruler of Chalcis. Agrippa surrendered Chalcis to his brother Herod and ruled in Philip's stead. On the death of Herod Antipas in 39 CE Herod Agrippa became ruler of Galilee also, and in 41 CE, as a mark of favour by the Emperor Claudius, succeeded the Roman prefect Marullus as ruler of Judea.

The era from roughly 4 BCE to 33 CE is also notable as being the time period when Jesus of Nazareth lived, primarily in Galilee, under the reign of Herod Antipas. It is therefore considered in specifically Jewish history as being when Christianity arose as a messianic sect from within Second Temple Judaism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Based on regnal years of Darius I in Parker, Richard Anthony; Dubberstein, Waldo Herma (1956). Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 75. Volume 19 of Brown University studies: Brown University. Providence: Brown University Press. p. 30. However, Jewish tradition avers that the Second Temple stood for only four-hundred and twenty years, i.e. from 352 BCE to 68 CE. See: Maimonides' Questions & Responsa, responsum # 389, Jerusalem 1960 (Hebrew)
  2. ^ Jonathan Stökl, Caroline Waerzegger (2015). Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. pp. 7–11, 30, 226.
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 3 (2nd ed.). p. 27.
  4. ^ Helyer, Larry R.; McDonald, Lee Martin (2013). "The Hasmoneans and the Hasmonean Era". In Green, Joel B.; McDonald, Lee Martin (eds.). The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts. Baker Academic. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-0-8010-9861-1. OCLC 961153992. The ensuing power struggle left Hyrcanus with a free hand in Judea, and he quickly reasserted Jewish sovereignty... Hyrcanus then engaged in a series of military campaigns aimed at territorial expansion. He first conquered areas in the Transjordan. He then turned his attention to Samaria, which had long separated Judea from the northern Jewish settlements in Lower Galilee. In the south, Adora and Marisa were conquered; (Aristobulus') primary accomplishment was annexing and Judaizing the region of Iturea, located between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains
  5. ^ Ben-Sasson, H.H. (1976). A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-674-39731-2. The expansion of Hasmonean Judea took place gradually. Under Jonathan, Judea annexed southern Samaria and began to expand in the direction of the coast plain... The main ethnic changes were the work of John Hyrcanus... it was in his days and those of his son Aristobulus that the annexation of Idumea, Samaria and Galilee and the consolidation of Jewish settlement in Trans-Jordan was completed. Alexander Jannai, continuing the work of his predecessors, expanded Judean rule to the entire coastal plain, from the Carmel to the Egyptian border... and to additional areas in Trans-Jordan, including some of the Greek cities there.
  6. ^ Ben-Eliyahu, Eyal (30 April 2019). Identity and Territory: Jewish Perceptions of Space in Antiquity. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-520-29360-1. OCLC 1103519319. From the beginning of the Second Temple period until the Muslim conquest—the land was part of imperial space. This was true from the early Persian period, as well as the time of Ptolemy and the Seleucids. The only exception was the Hasmonean Kingdom, with its sovereign Jewish rule—first over Judah and later, in Alexander Jannaeus's prime, extending to the coast, the north, and the eastern banks of the Jordan.
  7. ^ The Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament: Second Commonwealth Judaism in Recent Study, Wheaton College, Previously published in Archaeology of the Biblical World, 1/2 (1991), pp. 40–49.[dead link]
  8. ^ Karesh, Sara E. Encyclopedia of Judaism. ISBN 1-78785-171-0. OCLC 1162305378. Until the modern period, the destruction of the Temple was the most cataclysmic moment in the history of the Jewish people. Without the Temple, the Sadducees no longer had any claim to authority, and they faded away. The sage Yochanan ben Zakkai, with permission from Rome, set up the outpost of Yavneh to continue develop of Pharisaic, or rabbinic, Judaism.
  9. ^ Alföldy, Géza (1995). "Eine Bauinschrift aus dem Colosseum". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. 109: 195–226. JSTOR 20189648.
  10. ^ Westwood, Ursula (2017-04-01). "A History of the Jewish War, AD 66–74". Journal of Jewish Studies. 68 (1): 4. doi:10.18647/3311/jjs-2017. ISSN 0022-2097.
  11. ^ Karesh, Sara E. Encyclopedia of Judaism. ISBN 1-78785-171-0. OCLC 1162305378. Until the modern period, the destruction of the Temple was the most cataclysmic moment in the history of the Jewish people. Without the Temple, the Sadducees no longer had any claim to authority, and they faded away. The sage Yochanan ben Zakkai, with permission from Rome, set up the outpost of Yavneh to continue develop of Pharisaic, or rabbinic, Judaism.
  12. ^ Maclean Rogers, Guy (2021). For the Freedom of Zion: The Great Revolt of Jews against Romans, 66-74 CE. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-300-26256-8. OCLC 1294393934.
  13. ^ Goldenberg, Robert (1977). "The Broken Axis: Rabbinic Judaism and the Fall of Jerusalem". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. XLV (3): 353–353. doi:10.1093/jaarel/xlv.3.353. ISSN 0002-7189.
  14. ^ Klutz, Todd (2002) [2000]. "Part II: Christian Origins and Development – Paul and the Development of Gentile Christianity". In Esler, Philip F. (ed.). The Early Christian World. Routledge Worlds (1st ed.). New York and London: Routledge. pp. 178–190. ISBN 9781032199344.
  15. ^ Ezra 2:65
  16. ^ Ezra 2
  17. ^ Haggai 2:3
  18. ^ Zechariah 4:10
  19. ^ 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
  20. ^ Ezra 5:6–6:15
  21. ^ Ezra 6:15,16
  22. ^ Haggai 2:9
  23. ^ Cohen, Shaye (1999). Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Biblical Archaeology Society. p. 269. ISBN 1880317540.
  24. ^ Cohen, Shaye (1999). Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple. Biblical Archeology Society. p. 273. ISBN 1880317540.